Best Life Song
Kanye West released The Life of Pablo this week to wide acclaim (I called it a near masterpiece), and while many people are already trying to put the album in its historical context, I’m going to do something even more stupid and reckless and try to rank all the songs he’s ever put out. Some words on the rankings:
A) I left off Watch the Throne, G.O.O.D. Music, mixtapes and songs he produced and guested on. These are just the songs he released on his solo albums. I did this because the list was already too long and I’m sorta lazy.
B) I’m skipping all the skits, too. I hate the skits. No skits in the rankings.
C) Ranking Kanye songs is impossible. He’s got 93 songs and I like or love about 89 of them. I did my best, and remember: The reason I ranked the song you love too low is because I personally have an issue with you. Yes, you.
Here’s the list:
93. FACTS (Charlie Heat Version)
It’s not too late to pull this Nike takedown off the final version of TLOP, Kanye, whenever that comes out.
92. The New Workout Plan
I have always hated this song. I hated it the moment I heard it and I continue to hate it to this day. It’s a rock in my life, something I can always count on.
91. Bring Me Down
Lot of Brandy in this song. Like, a lot of Brandy.
89. Drunk and Hot Girls
This song is almost saved by a bizarre and wonderful bridge from Mos Def. Almost.
87. Hell of a Life
This song on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had some early ideas that he’d explore more on Yeezus, but the hook is tonally a mess and the weird harpsichord interlude has never done anything for me.
84. I’m In It
This song is probably too low, but it was the one song on Yeezus where West’s confrontational lyrics didn’t come across as clever, funny or knowingly antagonistic – he just sorta sounded like a jerk.
81. Pinocchio Story
A six-minute Auto-Tune freestyle in Singapore is how West closed out 808s & Heartbreak, and while I do think it fits as a stark closer to the album, it’s still a six-minute Auto-Tune freestyle taped in Singapore.
78. Barry Bonds
West was so eager to get Lil Wayne in Graduation (he was the best rapper alive at that point) that he snuck this in, even though it’s the weakest song on the album.
74. I Love Kanye
I laughed the first time I heard this self-aware little song. I laughed the second and even third time. By the fourth time I was hitting the skip button.
69. See You In My Nightmares
I understood why Kanye put Auto-Tune on himself on 808s & Heartbreak, but I will never understand why he put it on Lil Wayne.
67. Welcome to Heartbreak
I have a very, very soft spot for 808s & Heartbreak and still think, even to this day, that it’s under-appreciated as a record. Welcome to Heartbreak has an ineffective verse from Cudi, though, and is the one time in the album the sadness feels like a bit of a put-on.
62. So Appalled
Poor Jay Z. The guy had two features on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and he gets showed up by Nicki Minaj on Monster and Pusha T on So Appalled, and then I leave off Watch The Throne from this list for no good reason. Sorry, Jay.
60. Gold Digger
This song still makes me smile, even if it’s aged terribly. It should probably be ranked lower than this, but I have to give it credit for being a legitimate cultural phenomenon when it came out.
58. No More Parties in L.A.
I love this song, but it doesn’t belong on The Life of Pablo. It’s one of the best songs ever that clearly has no place on an album. Bring back G.O.O.D. Music and release it there, Kanye. Again, we still have time to fix this.
Kanye has done some funny things in his career, but issuing a call and response to the women working out in Equinox gyms might be the funniest. He put a call out to spin classes.
52. Love Lockdown
The drums at the end of this song are as sonically pleasing a thing as West has ever put on a song.
50. Everything I Am
This is a song that some people hate, but I find it beautiful, and it still cracks me up that he tried to give the song to Common, Common didn’t want it, and West said “screw it” and just put it on his own album to prove a point.
47. Who Will Survive in America
I guess some people might consider this song an outro as opposed to a song, but I’ve always taken it as a standalone thing, and the abridged reading of Gil-Scott Heron’s “Comment #1” is as powerful and bleak a closing statement as I’ve heard on an album.
I think this song is super underrated. I still put this on at parties. It’s an 80s synth dance joint and people should play it more.
38. Street Lights
I know a ton of Kanye fans who hate this song, but I think it’s one of the most cinematic songs he’s ever recorded. It’s one of those songs you put on in your headphones and you feel like you’re in a movie, no matter where you’re going or what you’re doing.
35. Dark Fantasy
I’ll never forget where I was when I first heard Nicki Minaj’s fake British accent that kicks off Dark Fantasy, the opener to West’s bombastic, magnificent My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I was living as an unemployed writer in San Francisco, the type of person who had a lot of free time to fall in love with an album. I put this album on my headphones and went for a walk down Fulton St. to Divisadero, and after that Nicki intro and the chorus of women singing, the beat dropped. I stopped walking. I had to. “I fantasized about this back in Chicago, ” he starts, and I realized his entire career had built to this moment, this beat, this song, this album.
Hey Mama and Roses are two songs that are wonderful … and two songs the current iteration of West could never record. Both were recorded before the death of his mother and the shattering of his family life. On these songs he sings about his appreciation for his mother and his family banding together in times of trouble — “so many aunties we can have an auntie team.” Compare that to West now, who raps about getting extorted for $250, 000 by a cousin who stole his laptop from him.
This is the sleeper of The Life of Pablo. I’m calling it now. This song will be one we go to for a long time.
This is the song when I finally got Auto-Tune. West wasn’t using it to fix his singing, he was using it to transform himself into a automaton, devoid of feeling, singing robotically about all he had lost. “I’m a monster, ” he sings, “I’m a killer. I know I’m wrong.” Then the best summation of himself he’s ever sung: “I’m a problem that will never be solved.”